Medals, road-signs and statues have served as some of the early symbols of Russia’s seizure of parts of southern Ukraine, and especially Mariupol.
This week, medals were awarded “for the Liberation of Mariupol” by the leader of self-styled Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), Denis Pushilin, and a senior official in Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, Andrei Turchak.
The DPR has been hard at work changing road signs from Ukrainian into Russian — especially those at the entrance to Mariupol.
The southeastern port city has been under siege for several weeks, with efforts now concentrated on the Avostal steel plant. On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces were “not stopping” their shelling of the plant.
The plant is now being evacuated as civilians and soldiers remain trapped inside, with the “next stage” underway, according to Andriy Yermak, head of the Ukrainian President’s office. More than 300 evacuees from the Mariupol area arrived in the city of Zaporizhzhia on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Transport of the DPR promised Thursday that work on the replacement of road signs in what they call liberated territories will continue. A statue has also gone up in Mariupol, depicting an elderly woman grasping the Soviet flag.
Petro Andrushchenko, an adviser to the elected mayor of Mariupol, spoke bitterly about the rising number of Russian officials visiting Mariupol, including the Sergey Kiriyenko, a senior official at the Kremlin — describing them as “curators of Mariupol’s integration into Russia.”
Referring to the new statue, Andrushcheko said the Russians had opened a monument “to an old lady with a flag on Warriors Liberators Square, which they stubbornly call the Leninist Komsomol.”
Andrushchenko also distributed new photographs Friday, saying that “in recent days, all the monuments of the Soviet period have been ‘restored’: the so-called ‘fists’ with eternal fire — and the signs that say ‘To victims of Fascism’ in the Russian language. [Also the] monument to ‘Komsomol members and communists’ in the Primorsky district.”
Although he is not in Mariupol, Andruschenko maintains links with people still there and says the Russian flag has also gone up at the city hospital, and posted a photo.
“The occupiers allowed doctors to work for the people of Mariupol. Medical staff and doctors live directly in the hospital, there is only outpatient treatment. The hospital is provided with light through generators, water — by water carriers.”
He also posted a brief video shot from a vehicle on Prospect Myru showing the collection of debris. Like other Ukrainian officials, Andrushchenko claimed that “the work of retrieving corpses from the rubble is entrusted to Mariupol residents. Their payment — food.”
On the road to Zaporizhzhia from Mariupol, a road most of those trying to escape Mariupol must take, is the town of Tokmak, also under Russian occupation. The entrance sign to the town has been repainted in the Russian tricolor.
Elsewhere in the south of Ukraine, the ruble is gradually being introduced, According to a community group on Facebook, government employees in the town of Yakymivka have been told that if they want to be paid in Ukrainian hryvnia “the occupiers will take two-thirds of the salary.”